American fascination with child abuse

No matter the day, no matter the season, Americans seem fascinated with the parts of our culture that are not seemingly consistent with what we like to think of as “The American Way.”

Each time I check statistics for this blog, I see that the one blog post of mine that consistently ranks in the top 5 is a post I wrote over 2 years ago about a horrible case of child abuse. It boggles my mind that people don’t want to read about happy things; about children getting better, about how we teach our students and residents to become excellent pediatricians. Yes, those posts get attention when I write them, but the child abuse posts get attention every week, every day.

Why are we so engrossed by the dark side of humanity?

Well, I guess I am making an assumption that folks are not flocking to that post because they want to learn the data about how many children are abused, or killed by an adult. They aren’t interested in knowing that more than 4 children die each day in our country as a result of abuse.  Nor do they want to know how to prevent those deaths, because it is soooo hard to do. I think they just want to be shocked, over and over. Just like going to a scary movie, or sitting for hours by the radio or TV to listen to word about tornados leveling a town in the Midwest, or riots or rocket attacks in the Middle East, we just cannot get enough of the bad.

Well, let me tell you something about child abuse; it hurts us all.

It hurts our society. It hurts us all when the person who injured a child to the extent that he or she can never see again, never eat or go to school, never speak again, never sees the justice that society and the child deserve. It hurts us all when the crime committed upon a child is not persecuted to the same extent as it would be if that crime were committed upon an adult.

If I were to walk up to an adult, and shake him, and bang his head against a wall over and over again, causing severe brain damage and the need for life-long care with a feeding tube, perhaps a ventilator and other lines and tubes, you had better believe I would be in jail for quite some time. But often I see children, abused by adults they trusted, in similar situations, being cared for by strangers who care about them so much more than those who were supposed to care about them. This creates a heavy cost to our society. We all lose when the children lose. Our society means little, our freedoms mean little if we do not protect those among us who are the most vulnerable.

Yes, I know I am venting.

I know I am just offering you my opinion. But I wonder why we are so fascinated and at the same time so reluctant to do anything about it.

Yes, we have the department of social services, which contains child protective services. Of course we have the police.

But we don’t have THE answer.

We have not addressed the underlying problems that cause or at least contribute to the abuse problem. Although child abuse and neglect occur in every socioeconomic strata, there are some predictors for who is most likely to abuse their children: those who themselves were abused as children. In addition, overuse of alcohol and drugs has been associated with a higher likelihood of child abuse and neglect. We are not doing enough to prevent the problem. We are not doing enough to address the problem after it is identified.

Can we allow these unneccessary deaths to continue?

What can YOU do?

You can get involved with an agency that provides prevention and education services such as the Children's Advocacy Center--there is probably a local branch near you. You can give of your time and/or of your money. You can help to provide support to young and vulnerable parents who may live under stresses that could lead to abuse. You can become a foster parent. You can work through your house of worship to help those at risk of abusing their children. You can mentor a young parent: help him or her to understand the 2 month infant who cries in the middle of the night is not able to communicate in any other way, and should not be punished. You get the idea.

Please help.

I would love to hear from you. What have you done to help prevent child abuse and neglect? What do you think should be done? If you are a foster or adoptive parent please lend your perspectives to our readers. If you are a physician, nurse or other healthcare provider who has personal knowledge please share it. 

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photo credits:

Tombstone of Lexi via photopin

Mortality graph via Childhelp

 

 

Comments

I love that you wrote this post as this is a topic that I am passionate about as well. Along with you, I too have cared for many of these children. I have seen them come and go, sometimes learning who is to blame and mostly not. I continue to care for the children who survived child abuse as an infant and now have devastating and chronic medical needs of which the average parent couldn't imagine. I believe as you say that people are fascinated with child abuse yet are reluctant to do anything about it. Fortunately over the past several years, I have had been involved with a wonderful group of people who are just as passionate as you and I are. Our Mission is “To eliminate childhood injuries and deaths related to SIDS and Shaken Baby Syndrome/Abusive Head Trauma.” We do our best to educate our community however still see child abuse cases which is frustrating. We are just a small group of people, however every other month when we meet I am re-energized at that enthusiasm in the room. All of us want to prevent any further child abuse but just don't know the best way to do it. I think my biggest frustration is that although people seem fascinated to hear about child abuse cases, they don't want to talk about ways to prevent it. They turn their heads and move on as if it never happened. How do we talk about something that is simply so unspeakable and unnecessary? Thank you for your passion and speaking about a topic that people usually don't want to talk about. Perhaps by continuing to talk about it, we can move forward to preventing it.

Thanks, Vanessa. always great to hear how others are involved and working on this issue. We have got to "keep on keeping on" on behalf of the children. I appreciate you taking the time to visit and write your comment.

We obviously realize the problem is parenting. We are not identifying problem parents fast enough. Every parent on an assistance program with a child needs to be screened for parenting skills. Questions such as: do you smoke with your child in the same room with you? Would identify an awareness problem. Being able to identify a child exposed to second hand smoke would really help get honest answers. Does your child go to school regularly? Know his/her numbers? Know his/her alphabet? There are so many questions that identify a parent who would put his/her desires above the childs needs. I am trying to help a mother now and find that her "problem child" in reality is a problem parent. Her assistance should be linked with a parenting course. There is so little training for the biggest job: raising future productive citizens.

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